“We all drove numerous times to look at the progress.” Questions asked as Groves, Port Neches primary schools start delayed.

Published 9:07 pm Monday, August 14, 2023

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PORT NECHES — Guadalupe Rodriguez asked officials with Port Neches-Groves Independent School District multiple times about the start date for the primary schools. She was told the schools would be complete by the first day.

Her husband wanted to see their child enter school for the first time and spent $800 on a flight so he would not miss the moment.

On Friday, leaders with PNGISD announced both Groves and Port Neches primary schools would be delayed in their start date to allow “staff members more preparation time,” pushing the date back to Aug. 21.

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“I called many times, if it’s going to be done, is it going to be complete? I always got ‘yes.’ I bought flights. I don’t have money to throw away,” Rodriguez said during Monday’s school board meeting. “Everybody knew it wouldn’t be complete because we all have common sense. We all drove numerous times to look at the progress.”

Rodriquez wasn’t the only one to express dismay at the situation and call for greater transparency.

Deedra Young said the district had no contingency plan to fall back onto should the campuses not be ready for the original start date of Aug. 17.

As of 11 days ago Groves Primary had no air conditioning in the second grade hallway, incomplete cafeteria, kitchen, gym, music art and other rooms.

“During all of this teachers were told to be grateful and smile, their personal social media accounts were monitored and when they “liked” a post that even suggested there was misleading information being out about the primary campuses, they were directly contacted by administration and told to remove the like,” Young said. “Limiting free speech is a slippery slope.”

Eric Taylor, vice president of the Houston Division of Sedalco Construction Services, and Gordon Lavender, project manager, addressed the visibly upset crowd of parents and teachers.

Sedalco is the company hired to construct the two primary schools.

The route that information is passed from contractors to the district was discussed, with Lavender saying Sedalco established their dates after sitting down with their subcontractor.

But what happens when the subcontractor does not make the date?

“It’s an embarrassment, not only to us, but it’s an embarrassment for him and the board because they’ve made commitments off of the dates that we’re given them,” Lavender said.

Lavender said the old Groves school was to have been demolished last year and the parking lot completed by the end of summer — they didn’t get to that until this year, he said offering an apology.

Another glitch in the progress comes from the carrier of the air conditioning supplier.

“So we’re trying to come in and put in temporary ACs and make a system work that’s not designed to be there,” he said. “And we know it’s hard on some of these teachers. We’re bringing in temporary units and we’re doing all that we can to get this corrected and right for the teachers.”

Groves resident Barbara Edington was straightforward in her reaction to the contractors, saying “I don’t have any faith in your deadline.”

“Your word means nothing to a lot of people,” Edington said as several other people murmured in agreement.

Two other newly built schools in the district, Port Neches Intermediate and Groves Intermediate will be ready for the first day later this week.